There didn’t seem to be a sign anywhere to point out the entrance of Woodford F & B, but knowing we were at the right location – a building on the corner of Forest and Woodford – I knew we’d find it. Eventually we did, but the restaurant’s only signage was a menu on one window and the words “Steak Cocktails Happy Hour Seafood Brunch Good Times” on another. That all sounded good to me, so we walked in ready to take on the nearly hidden eatery which opened earlier this year.
Not knowing anything about it in advance, the restaurant initially surprised us with its full-on diner feel and its modern, but still dineresque, bar. It was a pleasing atmosphere and one that seemed like it could become lively at times. The place was moderately busy with a few tables and bar seats still available. We were seated by the windows and provided menus that were a single sheet with food on one side and beverages on the other. Soon our waiter arrived with water and told us the drink menu was as-is that evening with no additions or subtraction to it. He left to let us decide what we wanted and we discussed what thirst quenchers were on our brains.
Upon the server’s return, we had made our final choices about what to drink. After both considering the classics, we decided to run with some Woodford originals. She chose the Dark and Shrubby – house spiced Black Strap Rum, ginger-cranberry shrub. I went with the Woodford 75 – Maine Craft Distilling Alchemy Gin, Hillinger Rose “Secco”, lemon. My decision was finalized by the fact the it was the only drink with the name of the place in it. Sure, it was a little girly, but I’m not one to shy away from girly drinks, so I didn’t care.
As soon as the waiter walked away to put in our cocktail orders, we set our gaze toward the food. The menu was pretty typical, but I made a couple of mental notes. First, the appetizers were under the heading of “Hors D’oeuvres” and the soups and salads were the “Appetizers”. The other notable was that every day had a Plat Du Jour, many of which looked pretty excellent. House favorites and entrees rounded out the food options. The menu certainly worked for upscale diner cuisine and I saw lots of items throughout that caught my eye.
When our drinks were presented, mine was as feminine as expected. Served in a champagne glass with a lemon zest, the bubbly beverage was ready to be sipped, so I put it to my pursed lips with my pinkie high in the air. The fizzy liquid was citrusy and heavy on the prosecco. The gin was not overly apparent, but that was probably a good thing as I think too much gin would have altered the cocktail in a negative way. It was a nicely put together concoction and I looked forward to more sips before and during my meal. My wife raved about hers and seemed to appreciate the slight diversion from her beloved dark and stormy.
With a few drink drops down the drain, we settled on appetizers and put in those orders. I went with one of my favorites, Classic Deviled Eggs – pickled mustard seeds, paprika, smoked bacon – and she the Caramelized Onion Dip – sherry, ricotta, goat cheese, mascarpone, house made rosemary seasoned potato chips. We decided to wait a bit before ordering the main course, but I eventually went with a well done version of The Burger – brisket burger, smoked bacon, grilled sweet onion, dijonaise, cheddar cheese blend, sesame seed bun, fries, aioli. Mrs. Portlandeater ordered the plate of the day – Maine Scallop Gratinee – roasted fennel cream, creme fraiche, green rice, lemon, cauliflower, bread crumbs. I had considered that, but went with the burger instead since I’m not a fan of fennel.
Just after ordering entrees, we got our apps. At that same time, the restaurant started getting very full both at the bar and tables, though I hardly noticed as I tuned out the world around me and focused on the matters at hand. Both the eggs and the chips and dip pretty much looked as expected except that the eggs were sliced crosswise instead of lengthwise. As those uniquely sliced chicken seeds sat in front of me, I started salivating. I quickly took one with its little bits of bacon on top and shuffled it right into my mouth. All the ingredients shined, but the pickled mustard seed was the brightest as the vinegar and mustard flavors permeated throughout. I appreciated the strong, but traditional deviled egg taste. The bacon added just a slight smoke which was plenty considering how great the rest of the egg was without it.
After consuming a couple eggs, I tried the chips and dip which my wife was already eating. The chips alone were delicious and crunchy. It’s hard to argue with freshly made tater chips, but I was dying to sample the dip too. An initial dive into it revealed a significant inclusion of long, stringy caramelized onions mixed into the cheese blend. A mouthful of the chip/dip combo elicited a mild, slightly sweet flavor which didn’t overpower the chips at all. It was another outstanding app. I sucked down the eggs and crunched on the tater chips relentlessly until everything was finished.
Our entrees came out a little while after our apps were done and my wife ordered another dark and shrubby. I inspected my burger and saw all the ingredients layered on top of the patty. A sizable portion of fries sat next to it with little cups of both ketchup and aioli for dipping. I opened my mouth wide for the mound of meat which was piled high. I took a bite and savored each piece of the stack. I enjoyed the many flavors included in the burger as they worked well together, but particularly loved the way the dijonaise and cheese came together to add a light, creamy tinge to the significant sandwich. The fries were also excellent and supremely seasoned. I used excessive amounts of both the ketchup and aioli to accompany them on their way into my mouth which.
My wife worked at her scallops as I uncovered all the facets of my burger. She loved the trifecta of drink, app, and entree and I was thoroughly enjoying mine too. As dijonaise dripped down my chin, I continued to chow down on the well done, well-executed burger. I finished it, then slid my wife’s plate of sea supper in my general direction and grabbed one of them and a piece of cauliflower. After a couple chews, I determined that they were pretty good, but for me had too much fennel. Maybe any fennel at all would have been too much for me, so I was happy that I got the burger; it had been an ordering success.
After dinner, we contemplated dessert. The waiter provided a list of four options which all sounded sufficient, but I wasn’t feeling like something overly sweet. Only one dessert – a Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with vanilla ice cream – seemed to have potential in the not-too-sugary category, so we ordered that with the ice cream on the side. The entire time we waited, I fretted about how sweet it would be and if I had made the right decision. My fretting was interrupted by delivery of the actual dessert and a quick poke at it revealed a very hot dish. I put on my waiting hat and relaxed while it cooled down. In order to speed the process, my wife dished out half of the dessert onto a small plate for herself and I took the original plate as my own.
Once the crumble was finally cooled enough to make it edible, I tried it and it lived up to all of my strawberry rhubarb fantasies. The natural flavor of the rhubarb, which is too often overwhelmed by sugar, was present. The tart finisher was perfect with a nice crunch from the crumble on top. I’m sure tart desserts aren’t everyone’s pleasure, but I felt that the treat played up rhubarb’s fresh, natural flavor to create magic. As I finished the awesome dish, I noted that the restaurant was now packed and the volume was high. It didn’t bother me, but it got to the point that I did have to raise my voice to speak to my wife across the table.
We came to a close on the meal and settled the bill. It came to $100 bucks prior to tip. From the drink to the dessert, they produced a stellar spread. I felt the service was particularly good too. Our waiter alone was top notch, but the addition of host and hostess assisting at times provided a great team to take care of us. I would highly recommend Woodford F & B. I didn’t know anything about them before showing up, but a lot of people certainly did, because they were busy. If you want to avoid the crowd, go early. If you want to party, go late. But do go, because you can’t go wrong with Woodford’s food or their beverage.
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